A Dead Man’s Party in Bangkok

Posted on by Scott Ferguson

bangkok tourist death - kao san road

One night in Bangkok I saw a tourist die on the sidewalk along Khao San Road, a notorious haven of nightlife. He was lying on the ground as I joined the scene. An Australian guy delivered CPR, but eventually stopped, shook his head, and said, “He’s dead.”

“Are you serious?” asked a young guy from New Zealand.

“I’m serious, mate.” And that was the end of the man’s life. A Dutch woman, a new acquaintance of mine, ran to the police station 200 yards away.

I joined a small crowd of perhaps twenty people to form a circle around the dead man on the ground protecting him from being stepped upon as thousands of people thronged the road and the nightly party hit its stride. The corpse’s mouth gaped open. The body remained uncovered, unmoved, and sprawled along the filthy concrete as oblivious to the revelers four feet away as they were to it.

Five minutes passed before a sheet materialized to cover the corpse. Another ten minutes until the police arrived and ten more after that before an ambulance appeared at the end of the street to crawl through the dense crowd.

I took another good look at the dead man before he was shrouded. He was Euro-Asian, well dressed, wearing a shiny watch, and chubby–his stomach extended up and out even in death, even before bloat and stiffness could set in. He looked like the dead pigs I used to see on farms as a child.

A horrendous place to die, I thought first, on a retched sidewalk in Bangkok, but at least the ground isn’t cold. I dislike the cold and in the moment didn’t wonder whether a dead man cares about temperature.

Waiting for the police, bits of information were shared. The dead man had been in his 40’s, from France. He partied all evening with the young guy from New Zealand. They left the club to return to the hotel where they both were staying. The Kiwi had intended to head to the airport for a 2 a.m. flight out of Bangkok, which he now would miss. The dead man was in Bangkok alone. His body didn’t seem to carry any identification.

A local Thai woman, a street vendor, stood next to me and indicated the man must have been drugged in one of the clubs. “Do not order drinks inside these places,” she warned. I assured her I drank only from bottles of beer opened in front of me. The small circle continued to wait. Who knew why the man had died.

I considered the possibility of the man having keeled over and died from a heart attack. Perhaps he died happy and enjoying himself until the final minutes.

I considered the possibility of whether his living body would have been pleased with how he spent his last day. There was no way to ask him.

I considered the possibility it didn’t matter why or how the guy died. He was dead. The fact of being dead seems more important than the why or how, particularly to the dead person.

We all will die. And once we’re dead, our bodies immediately become a slab of bones and soon-to-rot flesh so who cares if our place of death is a filthy stinking sidewalk. More important is how we live while still breathing. Are we truly alive? Are we grateful every day for the gift of existence?

I don’t know how the dead man lived his life before he died, but it seems he lived his last day satisfied. In fact, I believe he felt very alive on his last day. And isn’t that the point? To live in a way that is full of life. My meaning isn’t that we should attempt to live life by simple partying; rather, to attempt to live life by embracing the circumstances around us rather than shying away or avoiding or complaining. To be grateful for the moment.

It never is too late. We are not going to live forever. We should make sure to enjoy some part of everyday—it could be our last. It really could.

Would you feel satisfied if today turned out to be your last?

What have you forgotten to do or say?

Have you enjoyed some aspect of today?

What would make you feel more alive?


It’s never too late. Embrace the life you have. Cheers.

bangkok living free




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